Can The New York Times really be fair to Trump?

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After 500-plus days of doing everything in its power to tear down the presidential candidate who would stunningly go on to beat Hillary Clinton, The New York Times now vows to be objective.

{mosads}The vow comes from Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Dean Baquet, via an open letter to readers published over the weekend.

Full text below:

When the biggest political story of the year reached a dramatic and unexpected climax late Tuesday night, our newsroom turned on a dime and did what it has done for nearly two years — cover the 2016 election with agility and creativity. 

After such an erratic and unpredictable election there are inevitable questions: Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters? What forces and strains in America drove this divisive election and outcome? Most important, how will a president who remains a largely enigmatic figure actually govern when he takes office? 

As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you. It is also to hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly. You can rely on The New York Times to bring the same fairness, the same level of scrutiny, the same independence to our coverage of the new president and his team. 

We cannot deliver the independent, original journalism for which we are known without the loyalty of our readers. We want to take this opportunity, on behalf of all Times journalists, to thank you for that loyalty. 


Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher
Dean Baquet, executive editor 

It’s a nice sentiment — well articulated. But actions so often speak louder than words.

From a Sunday New York Times op-ed piece titled “The myth of female solidarity” by Susan Chira:

“While Democrats have won some blue-collar white women in the past, in this election, class emerged as a powerful and divisive force that swung decisively Republican. All the talk about angry white men glossed over the fact that they were married to angry white women.”

Angry white women. 


I did a search of the Times’s homepage on Sunday with the search term “Trump”: it showed the following 19 headlines focusing on the president-elect:

“What whiteness means in the Trump era”

“How Trump won, thanks to white voters”

“Campuses confront hostile acts against minorities after Donald Trump’s election” 

“Anti-Trump activists begin strategizing”

“President-elect’s inner circle includes a clash of visions” 

“When Republicans take power: How does a party that views government as the enemy actually begin to govern?” 

“Lies in the guise of news in the Trump era”

“Trump camp refuses to close door on campaign pledge to ‘lock her up’”

“The Getaway: What impact will Trump have on tourism?”

“Trump’s changes to the tax codes may encourage dynastic wealth”

“Editorial: The world waits and wonders about Donald Trump”

“Trump’s climate contrarian: Myron Ebell takes on the E.P.A.”

“‘Not my president!’ (video)”

“Win or lose, Trump fans vow to fight on” 

“Women express surprise at Trump win”

“Mexicans react to Trump’s visit” 

“Applying for housing at a Trump property in the ‘60s”

“Donald Trump changes tone on immigration”

“How Donald Trump will divide American and Israeli Jews”

These headlines are overwhelmingly negative despite Sulzberger’s and Baquet’s promise to “bring the same fairness, the same level of scrutiny, the same independence to our coverage of the new president and his team,” particularly when considering the Trump honeymoon isn’t even a week old.

It’s also a striking contrast to coverage of the last time a new president got elected, when the Grey Lady’s coverage was completely positive for Barack Obama.

That’s not to say Trump doesn’t deserve scrutiny or criticism, even in the honeymoon stage. Have at it. But when it’s impossible to find one headline out of 19 on the alleged Paper of Record’s homepage that can be deemed positive, that shows without ambiguity the Times has no plans to be remotely balanced any time soon.

The New York Times hasn’t endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in 60 years (Eisenhower). One letter isn’t going to undo 15 straight elections of supporting one side, including one Democratic candidate (Mondale) who one exactly one state that isn’t called New York.

The dubious streak is a perfect example of the Times’ systemic, cultural problem of hiring writers with the same worldview and presenting news and opinion around a desired, overarching narrative. 

Its executive editor declared just weeks before the election that he was willing to go to jail, even if that meant obtaining Donald Trump’s tax records via illegal means. Can someone with that mentality ever be expected to be fair?

A USA Today poll shows that by a 10-to-1 margin, American voters felt the media was rooting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. That perspective includes a majority of Clinton supporters. 

The Times talked the talk this weekend, vowing to be different.

It took exactly one day to prove that declaration to be hilariously hollow.


Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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